Israel is being forced into a position of defeat in Gaza

The JC leader, 12 April 2024


Yahya Sinwar, leader of Hamas movement, at a rally in Gaza City, on May 24, 2021. Photo by Atia Mohammed/Flash90

April 10, 2024 10:39

At the height of Israel’s operation in Gaza, 20 brigades were deployed against Hamas. Today just one remains. It seems that pressure from the US and, to a lesser extent, other allies is forcing Israel to end its operation before it has met its war aims.

Hamas has certainly suffered many casualties and much of its infrastructure has been destroyed. But not only does Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar remain at large, Israel’s hostages remain in captivity.

Bluntly, the war has not been won. Militarily, the case for Israel to continue the war — and to enter Rafah — remains as overwhelming as it did at the start. As war cabinet member Benny Gantz put it: “Ending the war without an operation in Rafah is like sending a firefighter to extinguish 80 per cent of the fire.”

Nobody wants more bloodshed. But October 7 showed what Hamas’s existence means for Israel. Hamas has been explicit that it intends to repeat, indeed to intensify, what happened. Israel had no choice but to seek to neutralise Hamas.

Politically, however, the equation is very different. Every further day of war is another step towards isolation, with most of the world having turned against Israel’s operation in Gaza — including, crucially, its allies.

The pattern is familiar from previous recent wars. Israel is given license to act for a limited time, after which it is told it has to stop. This time, however, it is difficult to see this as anything other than a disaster, with Israel clearly weakened in the eyes of the world. Israel set out to destroy Hamas and it has not done so.

Worse, not only does Hamas still hold the remaining hostages, there is now even less incentive for it to agree to any sort of deal, since President Biden and the other leaders who have forced Israel to stop its operations have done Hamas’s work for it.

There will be political and military consequences as the reality of Israel’s new status quo becomes clear. But it seems like Israel has been forced to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

April 10, 2024 10:39

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